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Senators Seek Congressional Hearing on Internet of Things

Four lawmakers say in a letter that legislative input into such issues as IoT security, regulations and standards is important.

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The Internet of things is beginning to register on the radar screens of Congress.

Four U.S. senators on Oct. 20 sent a letter to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD) asking that the committee they are on—the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation—conducs an oversight and information-gathering meeting about the Internet of things (IoT) by the end of the year. Given the expected explosion in the number of connected smart devices over the next several years and the impact the IoT will have on society, now is the time for the Senate to begin getting involved, the senators said in the letter.

Rockefeller chairs the committee; Thune is the ranking member.

"The proliferation of connected products is sparking a number of important policy questions related to consumer protection, security, privacy, technical standards, spectrum capacity, manufacturing, regulatory certainty and public-sector applications, among many others," they said in the letter. "The number and scope of these issues demands our prompt attention so we can better understand the technologies and explore how best to preserve America's leadership position in innovation and economic growth."

The letter was signed by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

By 2020, the number of connected smart devices and systems could grow to between 26 billion, according to Gartner estimates, to 50 billion, officials with Cisco Systems have said. Those systems—from smartphones and tablets to industrial systems, home appliances, wearable computers, cars and building infrastructures—will send massive amounts of data to the Internet and each others.

IDC analysts have said revenues from the Internet of things could reach $7.1 trillion by 2020.

The IoT is raising a range of technology questions, from the networks that will connect the systems and carry the data to concerns about how to secure that many connected devices to the open standards that will be needed to enable the billions of devices to communicate with each other.

Those are the kinds of issues that "are especially ripe for congressional attention as millions of Americans will be shopping for new tech products during the upcoming holiday season," the senators said in the letter. "Congress should engage on the issue cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion."